US gives Croatia, Russia military helicopter weapons Serbs

Zagreb, Croatia — The United States delivered two Blackhawk military helicopters to Croatia on Thursday. Croatia is engaged in a mini-arms race with neighboring Russian ally Serbia in the post-war Balkan region under intense tension.

The U.S. Embassy in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, said the donated UH-60M utility helicopter would contribute to improving Croatia’s defense capabilities and military readiness to support NATO.

“Blackhawk offers the ability to handle a variety of missions, from special operations to tactical evacuation to aviation medical evacuation,” said Chargé d’Affaires when the helicopter arrived at the U.S. Air Force transport to Zagreb. Fleming said.

“Croatia has a reputation as a devoted and capable NATO ally, and the introduction of the Blackhawks will further enhance the capabilities of the Croatian army,” Fleming said in a statement.

Defense Minister Mario Banozic thanked the United States for the donation.

“It represents evidence of a strong, friendly and alliance that is underway each year,” he said.

Croatia reached an agreement with the United States last month to purchase 89 Bradley fighting vehicles as part of its collaboration with Washington, and plans to form an infantry brigade as a member of NATO.

Croatia, a member of the European Union, agreed last year to buy 12 Rafale fighters from France.

Serbia, which had been at war with Croatia in the 1990s over a Serbian-led departure from Yugoslavia, has recently been armed primarily with Russian and Chinese fighters, drones and anti-aircraft systems.

In recent months, Russia has handed over 30 tanks and 30 armored personnel carriers to Serbia.

Serbia also recently purchased a sophisticated Russian Pantsir air defense system, attack and transport helicopter, and Chinese drone.

Serbia has officially called for EU accession, but has refused to fully align its foreign policy with the block of 27 countries and has been working to strengthen relations between Russia and China in parallel.

Serbia said it would remain neutral as Croatia firmly supported NATO’s allies in the current tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Associated Press